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Gloria: 'Angel of the Internet'

New Jersey mom decides to put the Net to good use. Starts non-profit 'Gloria's Place of Hope' to save lives
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on

Women still have far to go to reach their rightful place in society but they are making huge gains and many of them are carving out entirely new roles. One mother has found a way to use the new technology to save lives around the world.

On a sleepless night, after logging onto the Internet, 50-year-old Gloria Weichand, a stay-at-home mom in New Jersey, came across a desperate plea from a father in China. "It said, 'Please help save my son,'" Gloria said.

Nine-month-old Ya-nang, born with a congenital heart defect, was dying and Chinese doctors had given up on the baby. But his father, a college professor near Shanghai earning only $70 (£43) a month, wrote an email that asked: "Does anyone know which organisation could support my son to have the operation?"

Weichand knew all too well about this health problem since her own son was born with a similar heart defect and was treated successfully. "I never forgot what it felt like to have a child with a life and death situation that you had to live with daily," she said. "It's a terrible feeling."

So Gloria went to work. Through sheer will and corporate contributions she brought the child to New Jersey for surgery three years ago. He was the first boy saved, but it was just the beginning. Soon there were dozens of emails from other desperate parents.

Gloria's Place of Hope Now Gloria is on a mission. With no training, working with her husband, who's a teacher, Gloria coordinates regular arrivals in the New York area of terminally ill children, most of them from China.

Gloria guides the families on every step: She meets them at the airport, sets them up in a hotel and joins them at the hospital. It's been her life's work for three year's now. She's funded by private and business donations to her non-profit foundation -- Gloria's Place of Hope -- set up in the basement of her home.

Today there are 1,000 children on Gloria's waiting list hoping to come to the US for heart surgery. Money is short and the cost is great, more than $100,000 per child. Since she began, 33 children have been saved. "She's really sort of an angel," said Dr. Stephen Colvin who has performed 11 of the surgeries at New York University Medical Centre. "In at least three-fourths of those kids, they would not have survived but for a few months to a year or so at the most." The parents shower her with presents, but Gloria says the greatest gift of all, after seeing her own three children grow up, is now saving others.

"I think I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing at this point in my life," she said. "I'm tired. It consumes me. But it's the right thing to do." The right thing to do -- that's why many call her "the Angel of the Internet", giving families around the world new hope.

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